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14.05.2018

How hungry was Rajdeep Sardesai, huh?

We’ve all seen the video (even you, non-conformist with a MUBI subscription. You suck). Shot in Bangalore last week, in the final frenzy of the Karnataka election campaign, this phone video stars an indignant ‘techie’ — what we call residents of Bangalore.com — shouting at well-known journalist, Rajdeep Sardesai, while Sardesai, a secret Pakistani probably, is eating a meal at a restaurant.

The guy filming the video, the backbencher who’ll shout “maaro! every time he spots a fight in public, leads a “Modi! Modi!” war cry. The techie is mouthing off about Sardesai hating Indians or Hindus, or cows or something. At one point, he screams, “You stole the Kohinoor! Give it back, you handsome, silver-maned devil!”

Sardesai doesn’t retaliate. He doesn’t even flinch. Unperturbed, he continues to eat his food, pretending that the human equivalent of an egg DP on Twitter isn’t standing over him ready to bite his head off. Either the food was phenomenal or Sardesai was really bloody hungry.

Me, I’d have emptied my bowl of sambhar on Techie’s head. This is who we are now, after all. Everyone hates everyone else. Political and religious beliefs dictate our propensity for extreme violence, verbal and physical. I get it. A line has been drawn in the sand, and partisanship is just a way of life now. But can we have some rules, please? 

Top of that list of Big Nos should be: let’s not piss people off while they’re eating? It’s really rude. Has Techie forgotten the time he was scarfing down the paneer roll for lunch at work that one time, and he was starving, and he managed to get through all of two bites at his depressing desk before his boss started yelling at him to finish the code suite that wasn’t due for another week? Has he forgotten the resentment he felt? What about that time he was CEO of a utilities delivery startup in Koramangala and he ordered a taco with extra salsa? A handful of dips in, the client showed up early for a meeting? It’s the worst.

Has Techie forgotten the time he was scarfing down the paneer roll for lunch at work that one time, and he was starving, and he managed to get through all of two bites at his depressing desk before his boss started yelling at him to finish the code suite that wasn’t due for another week?

It’s not just overeager patriots and terrible bosses who do this. Often it’s completely well-meaning,. I’ll be eating at a fancy restaurant (as long as someone else is paying) and during the meal, a too-jolly fellow in a tie — the maître d’ — will show up to ask, mid-bite, how the food is. His look of anticipation is cheerful, as though a gushing five-star review of the establishment is imminent. In those moments while I’m chewing and feeling completely exposed, I have to gulp down not just my food but also my anger, so that I can offer a completely pointless, “Mmmm, very nice, very nice”.

I’ll be honest. I used to do this too. Back when I was a toddler, my family had a trusted old dog who was very protective of me. I’ve been told by reliable sources that, often, I would drag him away by the tail while he was eating, just as a way to exploit his affection for me. He did nothing, because dogs and babies are kindred spirits. But that’s the exception. Never interrupt an animal while it’s eating, or it will chomp off your toes in anger.

I think it’s become clear over the last few years that we have, or are developing, a nationwide eating disorder. We can’t bear for people to eat what they like. We bumrush Dalit homes for dinner photo-ops. Interrupting someone in the middle of a meal doesn’t seem like much, given those circumstances - but it’s the thing that most immediately reveals the selfishness and entitlement that goes into this sort of behaviour. Respect is one of those fundamental things we learn when we’re young: to let people finish their food or glass of water before getting down to business. Humans are at their very worst (and that’s saying something) when they’re hungry. Eating a meal is a boost, a revival of energy both mental and physical. And jumping in at that precise point violates a pretty old version of the fundamental decencies.

So let’s be civil every now and then (but not always, sure). Let’s not get in someone’s face while they’re eating, even if — especially if — they sometimes say mean things about a man you love, who promised you many things. Let’s wait a while; count to hundred. I’m not even being rigid or overly prescriptive here: you don’t have to stand around clicking selfies while they finish their meal and eat the saunf and dip their hands in that hot-lemon-water goodness. If they’ve reached dessert and are done with the mains, then it’s open season. Attack! Heckle away! Or maybe just get a real life.

Akhil Sood is an arts and culture writer living in New Delhi.

Photo Source: Goa Prism

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